The Dawning of the Age of Flex Labor

Source: Andrei Hagiu, Rob Biederman, Harvard business Review, September 4, 2015

The prevailing paradigm of people working as full-time employees for a single organization has outlived its usefulness. It produces excess volatility over the business cycle, resulting in measurable economic costs — both to people and to the companies they work for.

Our vision is straightforward: most people will become independent contractors who have the flexibility to work part-time for several organizations at the same time, or do a series of short full-time gigs with different companies over the course of a year. Companies will maintain only a minimal full-time staff of executives, key managers, and professionals and bring in the rest of the required talent as needed in a targeted, flexible, and deliberate way.

There are two reasons such a flexible work system is now plausible. The first is societal values. Work-life balance and family-friendly scheduling are much more important to today’s workers, and companies are increasingly willing to accommodate them. The second is technology. Advances in the last five years have greatly improved the ease with which people can work and collaborate remotely and companies and contract workers can find each other. These include:
• The relative ubiquity of broadband connections
• Collaboration tools like Dropbox and Evernote
• Continued improvements to services like Skype and Google Hangouts.
• Software-driven marketplaces such as HourlyNerd, UpCounsel, and Behance that are facilitating the fast and accurate match of the supply and demand for high-quality, experienced talent…